Beijing, Part II

After three days of meetings, 1:1’s, whiteboarding, catching up with my mentor, and amazing team lunches and dinners, I was on my own, for a day, in Beijing.

My hotel was in the “Silicon Valley” district of Beijing, in and of that the area is populated with many of the tech offices; Microsoft has two buildings there joined by a skybridge (which announces “Hi, I’m Cortana”). As I can easily get lost when I haven’t done my proper research and got my bearings, I elected for a day-tour on my one day off.

The night before I left I got a call at 10pm:

Her: “Hello, this is your Tour Guide. You need to be outside your hotel at 6:30am for your tour bus, okay?”

Me: “Ok.”

Her: “What time are you going to sleep? I will call you later with your bus number.”

Me: “I was asleep when you called.” 

Her: “What time are you going to sleep?”

Me: “I was already asleep.” 

Her: (Pause) “Oh. I will call you at 6am tomorrow to tell you your buss number.” 

Me: “Okay.”

Her: (Demanding) “Why do you not want to go to the Great Wall?”

Me: (Nonplussed) “What??”

Her: (Demanding & Impatient) “You signed up for Forbidden City and Summer Palace. Why do you not want to go to the Great Wall?”

Me: (Defensively) “It’s not that I don’t want to go, it’s that I only have one day, and my friends told me to do this. 

Her: (Warning) “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the Great Wall?” 

Me: (Too tired to care…)“Maybe next time.” 

Her: “Okay” (hangs up)

Thanks to the aforementioned jetlag/insomnia I was up at 4am, answering emails and toddling around. Breakfast is not available at the hotel before 6:30am so I walked over to the 7-11 and purchased Mystery Breakfast and orange juice, both of which were decent. At 6:30 I got on the bus. I was the first person on it.

After 3 more stops the bus was half full, including a woman behind me who appeared to be retching into a plastic back (based on sound). I was relieved when the tour bus stopped just outside the Forbidden City and Linda, my Tour Guide (from the phonecall the night before), got on and said “You’re from the Crowne Plaza, right? Come with me.”

It wasn’t hard to tell, I was the only non-Asian person on the bus.

With Linda I joined up with two other gents, both from Singapore, and realized that we were on the “English Tour Guide” tour. We walked to the Forbidden City, along one side, and then along the moat (it’s about 50 meters wide). Linda pointed out the four gates into the City (North/South/East/West) with their ritual uses (West is for dead people to go out, only the Emperor could use the South—except on her wedding day the Empress could, too), the four watchtowers in each corner, and the large gate doors with 81 metal studs in them (9×9, because 9 is the highest single-digit number and the Emperor is the highest person, aside from their deity). We walked through the South Gate (neaner, neaner Emperor) and into the first part of the Forbidden City.

(Side note: as our Guide returned from purchasing tickets a young Chinese couple approached her and asked her something. She turned to me: “They want to take your picture.” Me: “Wha…why??” Her: “They haven’t seen a white person not on TV before”. Me: “Um.. okay…” Somewhere in China I’m on an iPhone.

The Guide explained to me that they were not from Beijing, and that no one from Beijing or Shanghai would even care. But they were tourists, too, and apparently white people are on the list of things to look at.)

The Forbidden City is both larger and smaller than you’d expect. The first piece we walked into can best be described as a large courtyard, with buildings on each side. Beyond those buildings are other areas/courtyards, with more buildings, of varying significance.

“You see that building?” she said, pointing to a single-story building (don’t let the description fool you, a single-story building in the Forbidden City is about 3 standard US stories). “That building is NOT important.” That building had ornate lacquer, multiple pillars, gold-leaf dragons embedded in the top around it, and impressive marble stairs leading up to it. (Then again, so did every other building in the complex).

“It is NOT important because it only has 1 level. In Ming and Qing dynasty, you have 1 level for ‘regular building’. Two levels for ‘Emperor building’. And three or more levels for Temple. Emperor needed more levels than regular but could not have as many as God.”

We walked from one building to the next, marveling at the ornate carvings and the excellent restoration work that had been done. “See that building? Not important. Emperor would stop there to change his robes.” This would become a recurring theme: “That building? Not important.” I have many, many pictures of these buidings (both non-and-important ones).

After walking all over the Forbidden City we went to the Temple of Heaven (“See? Three level. Very Important.”) where I discovered that the architecture was indeed beautiful but I didn’t want a picture of the inside bad enough to withstand the jostling that was clearly de rigeur. I walked around the perimeter instead, taking pictures from the hilltop that the Temple sits on.

After this we headed to the Pearl Market, a government-run facility that aims to expand China’s burgeoning cultured freshwater pearl market. These are not the “Rice Krispy” pearls of my memory, but beautiful, round pearls that come in five colors: white (everyday/purity), black(indpenedence), purple (for romantic love), pink(friendship), and gold (dragon lady/super fancy). Be warned: you walk in and you get to help them open up an oyster and see the cultured pearls within, but you also are then followed by your very own salesperson for the rest of your time in the shop. Even if you’re just looking. The variety is impressive and I bought something (hey, I was in China!), including my first (and only) Chinese Diet Coke.

Chinese Diet Coke tastes exactly like American Diet Coke, which is surprising. As the male person remarked, “Diet Coke doesn’t even taste the same in Canada!”

After this we had lunch that was right next door to a fish market. Most of the items for sale there were what you’d see in any decent fish market in the US, with one notable exception.

We then went to the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace was about 40 minutes away and the van got quiet with sleepy tourists, which was good. When we arrived we were refreshed and the guide explained that the lake which bordered the Summer Palace was artificially made—or partially so. “Half was here. Half was made. They took the dirt from the half that was made and made that hill there,” she said, gesturing to a hill with a temple atop. “This was a present from the Emperor to his mother.” It’s pretty impressive when you take into account the size of the lake and the size of the hill, never mind the actual building architecture. As with any tourist attraction, the buildings were laced with gift shops and gift stands, and crowded with people much as the last two spots. “All the children are out of school for summer,” she said. “Now is the time when all of the tourists are here.”

tourists, like us :)
Tourists, Like Us 🙂

Our final destination for the day was Mr. Tea, a teashop. We were treated to tea service and learned how to properly drink tea (it depends, apparently, on what kind of tea, if you are going to slurp it or “chew” it or sip it). We learned how to hold the teacups (ladies: thumb and forefinger at the top, middle finger to the bottom, ring and pinky finger extended; gents: thumb and forefinger at the top, middle finger to the bottom, ring and pinky finger curled in under the cup. If men do it the “ladies’” way, they are considered “girly”. If ladies do it the men’s way, they are considered to be “dragon lady”). One variety of local tea is called Pu-er tea, and it’s very good; as with our other shop-stop this one meant we had a shopping assistant at our very elbow, coaching us on what else to buy. I noticed in both places there was no real dickering but they really emphasized the upgrade (“Don’t you want a necklace with that? What about when you go to a party? You need to be dressed up!”) (Trying to explain to this very delicate, feminine creature that I do not go to parties, and that I spend the majority of my time either at a computer or in equally unglamorous events seemed moot.)

I got back to the hotel at about 4pm, tired but happy. There are other tours available at the hotel and of course a ton more to see, which I will do on my next trip.

Kitchen Witchin’

About three weeks back I showed up at the Sur La Table in Kirkland, bright and ready, for my cooking class at 10am.

Only to discover I am, in fact, a total dork and I had signed up for the 1:30pm class. (Disclosure: I work for SLT, which was only part of the reason I was there.)  The instructor for my class happened to be there and knew, without checking a list, that I was in the class. She also knew the names of my friends in the class. As well as the other 6 participants.

That’s pretty impressive.

After going home and puttering a bit, I returned for my class: “Everything on the Grill”. The class was $69 and included about 2 hours of instruction, as well as the food itself (you get to eat what you have cooked when you are finished), and a printed copy of the recipes (no note-taking required).

We arrived and sat down, where we were handed aprons, name tags (with our names already on them), the printed recipes, and a discount card for any purchase we made that week. And then our instructor, Nicole, started talking. (Nicole was flanked by two kitchen assistants, whose very job it seemed was to make sure we didn’t have to do anything so “icky” as wash something, or fetch our own coffee. They also had tons of tips to hand out.)

Nicole walked us through how the class would proceed, and then started in on the first recipe. (Recipes included grilled kale and nectarine salad, a grilled asparagus-onion-tomato-corn salad, and marinated pork chops. Dessert was grilled lemon poppy seed pound cake with berries. No I’m not sharing the recipes unless you come to my house).  My teammates were actually my former boss and my former skip-level, and, having been conditioned on how best to work with me, were full of verbal praise. (I’m actually pretty mercenary, but verbal praise works best between review periods).  It did get a bit embarrassing though and I had to ask them to knock it off. I felt like “that” kid, if you get my drift.

The format of the class is very hands-on. You chop your own stuff, you juice your own fruit, you place your own food on the grill, you take it off, you test for done-ness, and you eat it. I learned a new way to hold my knife (and chop onions faster), a quick trick how to slide cherry tomatoes en-masse (actual quote from my friend Sharon: “this is worth the price of the class ALONE!”), how to tell when asparagus are grilled just enough, and that you oil the food and not the grill.

And then? Then I tested it out on friends. And their relatives. In my house.

They did not die. Despite his disinclination to tomatoes (and kale), the male person ate heartily. Doubles were had on dessert (which I modified to be angel food cake, and that grills up just fine). And I was informed that the pork marinade should be put into the “regular rotation”. All in all, a success.

Still, I can’t help doing what I tend to do with recipes. After I made it at home, I reviewed some parts and decided I’d change this-and-that, tweak it here-and-there. But that really is part of the joy of cooking.

Learning As I Go

I see I’ve forgotten to do hotel reviews, updates, and other things I learned on my recent trip. Mea Culpa! I blame my economics class.

Patro/Matro-nymics as a Dating Tool

Probably the most fun thing I learned on this recent trip is that Icelanders have dating down to a science. I am not kidding.

In Iceland, the child traditionally takes the father’s first name plus the word ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ (dottir) as their surname. This came up recently about the girl named Blaer, and you can read all about that and link off all you want here, but it got me thinking: you could totally tell if a girl has Daddy Issues if she choses her mother’s name for her surname, and/or if a boy has Mommy Issues likewise. It’s like a window into their childhood and you don’t even have to “wink” at them on Match.com.

Also, one of the best people I’ve got on my London job has the surname Thorisson. We did ask if his dad was named Thor, and it’s pretty close — the name means “worshipper of Thor”, and hey, who isn’t?

It is Possible to Over-Assume as to What Wi-Fi Means

This being my fourth trip to Rome (wow, that sounds really pretentious, trust me when I say as much as I love my Rome team and the fabulous food it’s not as glamorous as it sounds) I was told emphatically that I would not be staying at “that sad little hotel next door”. No, this time I got myself a fancy hotel in the old city, the Valadier, and it was very lovely. They serve a nice espresso. They have wi-fi in the room!

That crashed every. fifteen. minutes. I am not exaggerating. And since my midterm exam was available only for 24 hours, of which 8 I hoped to be sleeping, 4 I had to reserve for dinner (European dinners are breathtaking both in quality and stamina), 9 for work, I really needed my wi-fi to work in my room. A panicked conversation with the front desk man assured me that HIS reception on HIS phone was great, therefore don’t worry.

Thanks to the immense resourcefulness of a lovely gal in the Rome office, I had a quiet conference room and busted out my midterm in 90 minutes right before we left for dinner. Not ideal, but, as the company is/was paying for the class I assume they’ll understand. And yes, I got an “A”.

The Best Laid Plans Will Go Awry. Just Plan For It. 

My flight into Rome was late. My flight into London was late. My flight out of London was really, really late. Jet lag hit harder than any other trip I’ve been on. I broke one of the coffee machines. I lost a meeting room. I totally meant to spend time with someone and didn’t realize I hadn’t until I was almost to Seattle. My plan to have extra room in my bag was thwarted by the fact that it’s winter and all of my clothes were heavy sweaters. Pret changed their menu.

This last trip was a constant reminder that whatever you’re counting on, make sure you’re not counting on it. Or something.

The Best Things Happen When You Take Chances

I went for a run on the Friday, my only morning in London where I’d actually be staying in London that night. Following a map saved to my phone (which got no reception, so it wasn’t a moving map but a pic), I ran about 2.5km up a road and around a park, and then trotted back… or so I thought.

I was about a mile in before I realized *nothing* looked familiar. Not a blessed thing. No buildings, no shops, etc. As most of Islington looks charmingly alike this did not engender much confidence, so I walked into the nearest gas station and asked directions to the Angel Building in Islington. No dice. Walked across the street to a shop, same question, same result.

Hm.

Now, I had no service on my phone, so I couldn’t call up Google Maps. I did not think to bring anything with me but my hotel key, so I had no cash or card to grab a cab back to the hotel. I had run a mile in the *wrong* direction, but which *wrong* was debatable. And so…

I ran back from whence I came, back to the park, and then leveraged every tube station map and bus station map I could find around that park to figure out where I had to go. And got back to my room eventually, ridiculously pleased I didn’t have to give up and get a cab with the promise of “and then wait outside the hotel whilst I go get my wallet”.

Other successful chances included: trying a new place to eat (Meat People. It’s very yum), using my static Starbucks iPhone app to purchase a latte while I had no connectivity (totally forgot Sbux has wi-fi even in London!), and, for the first time in more than 3 years, checking my bag on an international flight. Contents arrived safely both ways.

I therefore declare this trip a success not only for the original needs met, but for the additional learning items. My next trip will be much more local but no less adventurous — please send me your ideas for Portland and the Oregon Coast, with a 10-year-old. 🙂

Home Improvement

Editor’s note: I’m right now dealing with a bunch of poo on the non-work, non-house, non-man front, but I can’t/won’t really talk about it and it’s now in the hands of competent professionals and I’m sure it will all get sorted out. Like a pre-or-post trip cleaning frenzy, I’m focusing my post on something completely unrelated.

Choice. Choice will be the end of us.

When the Male Person and I first started cohabitating — 3.3 years after we started dating (there is a certain mathematical harmony in a lot of our relationship dates) — Everyone Was Wondering: what would be the first sign of conflict? The toothpaste tube? My habit of putting things away willy-nilly vs. his habit of specifically ordered piles? We had long since successfully negotiated the proper positioning of the toilet paper roll, but would it be household chores or division of labor to start the angst?

No angst. Not a bit. We see each other a bit more, and he eats better and I don’t have to take the waste bins out.  The expected shortcomings of cohabitation — bulimic cat aside — aren’t.

That said, in light of our economic and real estate forecasts for the areas — do please believe me when I say there are hours of research and many convoluted spreadsheet calculations supporting these — we are staying in my 1800 square foot,  1970’s rambler. Instead of putting a huge amount of money towards a down payment on a larger and somewhat fancier house, we’ll be putting a slightly smaller amount on this house making it that much more comfortable. And therein lies the choice.

Specifically, choices like: Fully tiled shower or get a one-piece shower pan? Do we tile 2″ or 4″ or 6″ up around the vanity? How much is okay to spend on a dual-flush toilet in the aforementioned 1970’s rambler? How much black speckling is okay in what should be a mostly red glass shade for the mini pendant lamps over the bar? Is this particular semi-flush-mount ceiling lamp Harry Potter enough for the boy? How silent should a bathroom fan be? Cherry floors or dark walnut or ubiquitous beechy/piney wood floors? Boulders or cottage stone for the terraced area out front?

As you can see, these are *really nice* problems to have. They aren’t really PROBLEMS. But they do cause endless evaluation, decision, question, re-evaluation, and re-deciding as we go through the cost-benefit analysis against a five or ten-year plan.

Micorosoft did not have us in mind when they created Excel.

Frankly France

My boss is French. My skip-level is French. And I think I’m becoming a closet francophile, but NOT because of them. We had an offsite.

In Lyon, France.

For those not in the know — which, until about a week ago, included yours truly — Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France. I was there for 4 days and gained approximately 1 pound per day, and so we can all acknowledge that this was due to the fantastic food. I ate everything and then some, and in a country where bread is served at every meal (and contains only the classic ingredients — none of this corn syrup business or dough conditioners, thank you very much), this was no small feat. Oh, and the wine.

The Wine!

As I stated, my bosses (plural) are french. And so when it came time for wine to be decided, the menu was handed to them, and after a studied reflection of the menu and nonverbal cues between them, they’d summon the wait staff and give them the cursory order. In French. In other words, I couldn’t understand a bit, and so I can’t repeat what they ordered, but everything tasted wonderful. (In the states I eschewed French wines as “dusty” — not a speck of it in France. Not sure what is up with that!)

I see I’m babbling. Let me go at it chronologically:

After a day of travelling — Seattle to Heathrow, Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle, CDG to Lyon via train — I checked into my hotel (the Radisson Blu, which has unparalleled views in Lyon and quite the nice breakfast!). It was 10pm at this time, and the short walk from the train station allowed me to see the perfect pinks and oranges of the sun as it set. Bracing myself for “French disdain of the American”, I asked the concierge downstairs for restaurant recommendations.

I was presented in a charming and friendly manner with a map, highlighted directions, and two options: did Madame want something “safe”, or did Madame want something traditionally Lyonnaise? Madam indicated Lyonnaise, because I am not about to let a little jet lag in the way of Madame’s sense of adventure. A right from the hotel, and then the next right, and then a left, down two blocks: I found myself at a not-very-distinguishable bistro on a cobblestoned lane.

I was one of 3 tables at that time: a french couple having a romantic dinner, a set of Americans doing their best to keep all sorts of boisterous clichés in place, and then, well, me. The waiter switched to nearly-flawless English (and not in a disdaining way) when he discovered my French was non. He did want to make sure I understood what I was ordering as I was picking it out of a French menu but fortunately French is a Latin-based language and I can understand it just fine, I can’t speak it. Anyway, chicken with mushrooms and a side of ratatouille, and an okay bordeaux was dinner. It was beautiful (hey Kevin — the ratatouille was WAY better than that one we did, so we may need to revisit that at one of the HP get togethers), and then there was dessert.

Oh yes I did. I’m sorry, but my weight loss programme does not extend beyond the borders of the US, and so tarte tatin it was, and it was AMAZING. That, and coffee in a little demitasse cup.

Sated, I went back to my room… and woke up promptly at 5am. With the local gym not open until 8am, and no power converter (the three that I had brought with me did not work, and the person in charge of adapters at the hotel was not in until 9), I went for a run. Lyon is an excellent place to run — the walkways are wide, it’s mostly flat, and you cannot help but look at amazing architecture, beautiful scenery, and it’s cool in the morning even on a summer day. I only did about 4km — the knee is messed up again (that is another post for another time). However, it helped me feel better about the caloric intake of the night before.

I will say nothing of the meetings in Lyon that I was there for because they are proprietary to my company, with the exception that they were incredibly productive and useful. I was surprised because usually these sorts of things are endless power point decks and stifled yawns, but by day 3 we were still active and passionate about what we were doing, and had come to a better understanding of how each wheel works in this little clock of ours. I came home with 7 pages of notes.

At any rate, each day had breakfast in the hotel — oh, the cheese! — and a prearranged luncheon. Dinners were out on the town with the bosses, and that was where the careful wine menu scrutiny/ordering took place. Dinner conversation was equally as pleasantly a surprise as the meetings themselves: our party included two from Hong Kong, one from Amsterdam, two from London, the aforementioned two French, a few Americans, an Italian Australian, an Italian Italian, a Swede, and three from India (originally). I discovered many things, including that restaurant service and gratuity expectation/practice varies widely globally, that personal space in social situations does as well, and that the US is sorely behind in languages for its children. Case in point: my colleague from Amsterdam had mandatory Dutch and English until she was 10. Then French was added in. Two years later, so was German. She took Latin and Greek for fun.

(If you’re counting that as six languages, let’s take note that she knew a handful of words in other languages including Spanish and Italian).

At any rate: Lyon was pretty, with a variety of architectural styles but mostly consisting of the beige stucco/stonework and reddish-tan roofing, most buildings not exceeding 4 or 5 stories. We visited the local cathedrals (the two biggies, anyway), if I can get them off of my iPhone I will post pictures.

In short: Lyon is a 2-hour train from Paris and worth it.

As to Paris: I spent half of one day there (by the time I got the train and metro sorted out). In that half of a day I saw the Arc de Triomphe (larger than expected, and there were people at the top, which I hadn’t realized was possible), walked down the Champs-Elysees (endless shopping possibilities, but I’m not a shopper and people were thick — in both senses of the word), walked around the Louvre (not in it, I’m afraid, time being what it was), and down to Notre Dame (did walk in, it is GORGEOUS).  If you’ve ever seen the TV Miniseries The Pillars of the Earth, you will learn how they figured out how to make the heavy stone archways (and not have them pulled down by gravity and killing people, for example) or the architectural purpose of flying buttresses; and this makes the Notre Dame all the more impressive. That, and the realization that all of that lovely colored glass was done without chemicals — or not the way we think of them. For example, did you know that in order to get RED glass you need gold?

I didn’t make it to the Eiffel Tower, as I dawdled (dawdled??) in my walking — the architecture in Paris is AMAZING. You can tell the difference in building ages just by their accoutrements — who has gargoyles, who has scrollwork, what kind of columns were in fashion. Some buildings are relatively new — say, mid-1900’s– and about twenty feet wide, having been risen between two older buildings that formerly may have had garden space between the two. Cobblestone streets abound, and the smell of everything is in the air. I don’t know a better way to describe it, but I’m in love, I truly am.

My only dinner in Paris I had close to my hotel (Hotel Ampere, 17th arrondissement, absolutely beautiful in and out) and was a fixed-price with some choices. I sat outside, so as to watch the people walking by — I love people watching — and had a very leisurely dinner. The service was very friendly and attentive, I had to ask the people to my left — four older French people, two older couples — if tipping was okay or would elicit offense. I had to do this in Spanish as it was the only common language we had, their English being only fractionally better than my French. (I am not dissing them at all — at least they spoke another language! Never mind two. America, we need to catch up!) After some discussion, they agreed that the service was very good, and that leaving service (propina in spanish) was okay — in this instance. Of course she would not be offended, I just needed to realize this was only done when it was *really good*, not as a matter of course.

Morning came on my last day, with enough time for a quick breakfast and then 4 Metro lines (kinda like our subway system) to the RER train, back to my flight. In all, travel on my last day took 22 hours. I was very happy to see my bed.

I will be seeing France again though. I politely informed the male person this morning we are going back and spending some real-time there. He took it rather well.

All Tharp, All The Time

NB: I totally blogged about all of this last night, from my iPhone, at like 11pm. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to post, and so I am re-blogging, in a much less recent/scintillating fashion. Sorry about that.

I didn’t have time to write, as originally planned, during the intermissions. For one, each intermission was 20 minutes and that’s barely enough time to get up and walk the four paces to the orchestra (like, the people actually playing the music) and take pictures of them while they hustle around, then talk to Nancy, then go to the ladies’, then tweet and retweet, and then talk to Nancy some more, and take a few more pictures. I mean, come on — where are YOUR priorities?

Who’s Nancy? Nancy was the seating-guide-and-programme-handing-lady, and she is a real hoot. Nancy’s got two daughters — one in Portland is a GM for a hotel (I didn’t tell her who I work for) and the other in NYC doing stand up. Nancy recognized all of the regulars — she was able to tell them things like “this is a lot like that one program you saw that you got up and left after the intermission”. She was also full of information: an hour before each performance there is a presentation on what the show is about (kinda necessary with ballet), and afterwards you can talk to some of the dancers (I didn’t because it was too late for this turnip by then).

Wait! I’m supposed to be talking about the ballet, though, aren’t I? Ok:

First Performance: Opus 111, music by Brahms, with 12 dancers. There were three groups of four dancers, each of the four dancers (2 ladies, 2 gents) had matching dress, with slightly different colors than the other three groups. So if dance group 1 had purple tights with a brown top and an orange sash, then dance group 3 had brown tights with an orange top and a purple sash, etc. This is clumsy to write about; so here is a picture:

Pictures are awesome. At any rate, this piece was extremely… athletic. You can see from the photo that there is a lot of arm movement — more than the standard arms-up ballet moves you see — and that was consistent through the entire evening. For this one, though, there were a lot of deep squats, lunges, lifting of whole bodies with one arm, etc. As I was front row I was able to see all of the muscles functioning, and the little rivulets of sweat, and honestly? It works. It’s one thing to see a graceful dance, it’s another thing to see the technical skill that must be employed to do it and not have that sight diminish the gracefulness.

Then there was the intermission where I decided I am going to make myself a chiffon hoodie.

Then the second piece was Afternoon Ball. It features a scant 5 dancers, 3 are ruffians/urchins/smack addicts; 2 are fancy-dress ball-dancing.  This was one of those performances where it would have been good to get the information on what I was supposed to see in it; I have no idea what the intent was, but here is my take: 3 rough-and-tumble people, living on the street, begging for money and having all of the dramas that that implies (drugs, odd allegiances, etc.). Dancing around them is this extremely well-to-do couple, always missing the urchins by just so much space, completely ignoring them (and ignored by the urchins). At the end, the lady and gent dance off, the girl urchin leaves with one guy, and we have one urchin left, in the cold, alone. And he freezes to death (the last dancer to come out is dressed all in resplendent, floor-length, twinkling white; an icy angel of death. As she puts her hand on his shoulder, the stage lights go completely out). It was BRUTAL. And amazing.

Here are the urchins:

With this done I went back to the ladies, chatted with Nancy, read some work email, and texted the male person to inform him that we would be possibly dragging him to a ballet next year.

Then I decided to actually read the programme, and the last piece “Waterbaby Bagatelles” included 7 music pieces. Number 5 of 7 was by Astor Piazzolla, who is probably the most famous tango musician in the world and certainly my father’s favorite.  The seven pieces were very different — dramatic, heavy music; light, fluffy bits; crazy bits. The costuming ranged from what looked like those 1950’s water-dancing movies to what had to be nearly sprayed-on velour bodysuits (tops optional for men). Again, the costumer allowed us to see the amazing musculature of these folks.

I read somewhere that the dancers have an hour-long class on technique each day, and then another 6 to 8 hours of practice, every day. It shows in that unless you’re absolutely looking for it, you don’t see it.

Culture!

Greetings from the dining room at McCaw Hall, where I am without a doubt the youngest person here. I have all my own teeth.

Flying solo as I am this evening it affords me the ability to play with my phone at the dinner table without offending anyone. This in turn offers camouflage whereby I can pretend I am at a loss for what to phone-type next and let my eyes wander and review my dining “companions”:
1. I am not the only Dona sola here: there are two others, but they are infinitely more secure because the are not fiddling with their phones.
2. There are a good deal of elderly couples… One and all are dressed nicely and appear to be having those comfortable conversations that long term couples do. (“Well I’m not sure I should have a martini… There are *two* intermissions.” “Say what was that martini we had the other day… Yes you do know what I’m talking about it was at that place… Of course you were there…”)
3. There is too the very rare four top.

Pardon the pause… You may not have noticed it but I had to load the WordPress app for the iPhone. Much better.

At any rate I am halfway through dinner and the dining room is quite full now, lively and loud. I am fighting the urge to join a conversation to my right. The couple next to me is wonderful: not cloying, at ease, happy and laid back. They are now apparently celebrating being debt free and she knows the origins of pasta puttanesca.

I am also now, in this new crowd, much more cheerfully anonymous.

More at the first intermission.